The long, leisurely lunch was killed off when Gordon Gekko declared that lunch was for wimps in the hit 1987 movie Wall Street.
Gekko, played by Michael Douglas, also memorably said: “Greed is good”. The collapse of Lehman Brothers which triggered the Great Recession ten years ago proved that, actually, greed is not good. But the long leisurely lunch remains dead and buried.
Remember “Russian tea”? You know the one – rush in, rush out again. Well its first cousin is the express lunch which, when executed well, is based on the theory that speed doesn’t have to impact on quality. And at Manchester’s Teppanyaki Chinatown, it certainly does not.
The Japanese know all about speed, what with bullet trains and the breakneck pace of technological change. And have you ever seen Japanese tourists “do” sightseeing? A quickie with the selfie stick and they’re gone in a flash.
Couple that with the teppanyaki cooking style, which demands freshness of ingredients and speed of preparation, and you have the recipe for a classy lunch. Rapido.
Teppanyaki Chinatown, the first teppanyaki restaurant to open in the UK outside London, is now under new ownership. It’s a place we’ve known and enjoyed for many years and always thought it deserved far greater recognition for the excellence of this essentially very simple and very healthy cooking style.
For anyone who has never experienced the theatrical preparation and the delicious results, the express lunch is the ideal opportunity to try it. And it’s priced just £7.95 a head, including a soft drink.
Apart from a few nods towards Japan, including a moody landscape of a snow-capped Mount Fuji, the dining area is small and functional, dominated by half a dozen or so steel-topped teppanyaki stoves inset into the seating areas. These are the stages for the cooks, armed with knives and spatulas, to perform their culinary conjuring tricks.
The express lunch comprises a single course with a choice of duck breast, salmon fillet, teriyaki chicken or the veggie option, tofu steak and aubergine. The price also includes a soft drink, fruit juice or green tea.
The preparation is dramatic with the chef priming his stove with oil and a spirit that generates a sheet of flame before beginning the cooking. The ingredients are presented to diners raw, so there’s no hiding place for anything other than the freshest food.
We chose to share duck and salmon, decent portions for the price, and watched it flash fried with plenty of spatula action to accompany the egg fried rice with diced vegetables that had been cooked in the same way moments earlier. Fresh beansprouts were shown the hotplate briefly to retain an appealing crunch.
The whole process took about five minutes. The result was light, fresh and satisfyingly flavoursome.
Express lunch at the Chinatown Teppanyaki is served between noon and 3pm, Monday-Friday.
Early evening and weekend two-course lunches are £11.95 and there is a range of set menus. Teppanyaki dishes on the main menu include sirloin or fillet of beef, lamb loin, duck breast, chicken fillet, seabass, salmon, monkfish, king prawns, scallops and lobster tail.